第三章--The First of the Secrets(11-17)

上一篇 / 下一篇  2008-10-04 15:57:24 / 个人分类:小说翻译

As a little girl, I had always been afraid of the faces, and was terrified to find them staring at me when I woke in the middle of the night. My fear was not alleviated when Primus (so he was called at the time) told me sternly that inanimate objects could not hurt anyone.


It was little Quartinus (Colin) who saved me. One day when he was playing sick, he sneaked from the infirmary, and stole nail enamel from the boudoir of Miss Daw, who was our music teacher, a fair-haired woman of ethereal beauty with skin as clear as fine porcelain. He then went out to steal a ladder from Mr. Glum’s shed. Somehow he carried a ladder all the way up three flights of stairs in midday without being seen, and all the way to the girls’ dorm.


There he was, balanced precariously eleven feet high, painting the noses red on the ugly metal faces, crossing their eyes, giving them moustaches and goatees, and he had managed to deface six out of the seven goblins when Mrs. Wren walked in and caught him.


He was punished by being sent to his room without supper. I smuggled him part of the tuna fish casserole we had for dinner, wrapped up in my skirt. At that time, of course, the ash tree outside the North window gave me easy access to the ground. I tied the skirt in a bundle and threw it through the window of the boys’ dorm. Quartinus thanked me the next day, but he never returned the skirt.


I asked him why he defaced the goblins. He told me: “Your fear gives them energy. When you see them as stupid-looking, though, you get energy from them.”


Whatever the reason, it worked. They always looked silly to me after that; all except the one on the far end, whom little Quartinus had not gotten to.


Vanity stood with her cheek pressed to the stones, her eyes closed, as if she were listening intently. She motioned with one hand, pointed to the long-handled candle snuffer which (we assumed) had been in the room since before the candelabra had been electrified.



I handed her the pole, and she put the hook end (used for lighting candles) in the mouth of one of the gargoyle faces. It was the one at the far end. She tugged.


With a sigh and a click, a section of stone moved forward and then swung out, revealing a secret passage beyond.


“That’s impossible!” I said, flabbergasted.


The door was small and square, no more than three feet by three. The stones, which had seemed so thick and sturdy, were merely an eighth-inch of shaved granite face affixed to a wooden door.


The door was set to the frame with sets of hinges of a type I had not seen before: each hinge was riveted to a second and a third, to form a little metal W-shape. The triple hinges unfolded like an accordion when the door was opened, allowing the door to move directly out from the wall for a half-inch, before swinging to one side. This also allowed the door to swing outward, even though the hinges were on the inner side.


The crawl space beyond had a floor of unpainted, unvarnished wood, and narrow walls of brick. The three-foot ceiling was curved in an arch. It looked like a chimney lying on its side.


“When did you find this?” I asked Vanity. I was kneeling, with my head in the door, and she was peering over my shoulder.


“During the summer, after Mr. Glum chopped down the Great Escape Tree. I would check for panels every night. I could only find it, for some reason, if it was the thirtieth or thirty-first of the month. Weird, huh? I bet it’s on a timer.”

"夏天的时候, 当格罗姆先生砍倒大逃生树之后.我每个晚上都检查面板.由于一些原因,我只能在每个月的最后一天找到这个.不可思义,是吧?我打赌它是由一个记时器控制."

I turned on my knees to look up at her. “Dr. Fell gives us our injections on the first of the month.”


She blinked at me, her wide, emerald-green eyes brimming puzzlement. “What has that got to do with anything?”


Now I knew how Victor felt about me when I asked a question about something he thought obvious.

现在我知道维克托对我的感受了, 当我问一些他觉得很明显的事情的问题时.

I nodded toward the dark hole: “Where does it go?”


“I was never able to get a light in here. If you follow the lefthand wall through two turns, you come out near the clock in the Main Hall. There are two other ways I never explored.”


“Left? You mean right, surely?”


“Just go as I tell you.”


We crawled in the pitch dark. My fingers felt occasional spiderwebs or splinters along the dusty wood floor. Once or twice I banged my head against the brick ceiling, and was glad for the humble protection of my aviatrix helmet.


The stale air was warm and close, and I was grateful for the warmth on a cold night like this. Once or twice I heard a noise: it sounded like the rumble of breakers.


“I hear the sea,” I whispered over my shoulder.


Her voice sounded very close in the pitch darkness. “Some trick of the acoustics, I doubt not. Like a whispering gallery. Maybe there is a tunnel which leads down to the sea cliffs . . . ?”


“Ow! I found where the wall ends. It goes left and right.” I was glad I had bundled my hair into a cushion under my cap. I took a moment to adjust my goggles so they rode atop my head. Another extra inch of leather and glass might mute the next skull impact.


“Take the left-hand way.”


We turned left, which was impossible. By my reckoning, that would take us further East than the East Wing.


At the next fork, we turned left again. By my reckoning, this should have put us in the middle of the North Lawn.


“But how on earth did you get the notion to look for it in the first place?”


“Sometimes, in the night, I would get the feeling I was being watched,”Vanity explained. “So I figured there was a peephole.”


I thought that if there was a peephole, Mr. Glum might be using it, to watch us when we doffed our clothes before bed. I didn’t say anything, for fear of frightening her.


There came a tapping noise ahead, regular and rhythmic, like the noise of a sentry, in metal boots, pacing.


“What’s that?” I hissed.


Vanity ran into my bottom. “Oh, you! It’s the clock. Just keep on. We’d better hurry.”


But the noise unnerved me, and I did not hurry. Instead, I put one cautious hand in front of another. And I was glad I did, for my forward hand suddenly felt nothing.


Was I poised over a brink? I felt around in the air, and encountered a wooden step a few inches below, and another below that.


We were at the top of a stairway. I squirmed around so that I could go down feet first and, keeping my other hand on the stone overhead, I found that the ceiling did not drop as the stairs did but drew away as the stair descended. The ticking now was very loud; it seemed to come from directly ahead.


The stairway was only five stairs long, dropping just enough so that, by the last step, Vanity could stand upright, and I had to stoop.


There was a surface before me. In the dark, I could not tell what material it was, except that it was smoother than stone. It could have been wood, but it was so cold it felt like metal.


“Now what?” I whispered.


“There’s a switch, I suppose,” she said.


“You suppose? How did you get out this way before?”


“I suppose I found a switch.” And she crowded up against me in that little space, tighter than a phone booth. I could hear the soft noise of her hand fumbling along the panel.


“You don’t remember?”


“I think I wasn’t exactly awake last time I did this. You have to be in the right state of mind. Sometimes it’s hard to remember nighttime thoughts during the day.”


“You think? What do you mean you think you weren’t awake?”


“Well, how else do you explain the fact that you never saw me searching for the panel with a ten-foot pole in my hand every night before we went to bed? Now, hush!”


“This is ridiculous—!”


“Just be quiet! Don’t think you are too old to be spanked!”


“I’m taller and stronger than you, and I don’t fight like a girl.”


“I’ll get Colin to do it. You’d like that.”


I was so shocked that I actually did shut up. I was glad it was dark; I could feel my face burning.


A crack of light appeared. Vanity pushed the panel aside.


This was about four feet tall and a little over a foot wide. A metal blade, tipped with a weight, swung past, inches from our faces.



I tried to shrink back, but Vanity and I were pressed up together too closely. She made an annoyed noise in her throat. I blinked and looked again. Blade? We were looking out at a pendulum, swinging back and forth, back and forth.


Beyond that was a pane of dusty glass, blurred with age. On the other side of the glass, moonlight fell across carpet, heavy chairs, two mannequins in Norman helm and mail carrying pikes.


This was the Main Hall. We were in the grandfather clock, looking out.


Vanity whispered, very quietly, “The watchers will notice if the ticking stops. We have to slip past the pendulum without touching it, and get to the main doors and outside. Ready?”


I would have pointed out to her that, as a matter of mathematics controlling such things as volumes, moving bodies, and areas swept out by pendulums, that two girls (four-and-a-half and five-and-a-half feet tall, respectively), cannot turn sideways, and climb out of a one-foot-wide box, open the inner latch of a rusted antique clock, and get clear in the time it takes for a three-foot pendulum to swing back and forth once. Not to mention that there were weights and chains hanging in front of us as well.


But I did not get the chance. Vanity was already thrusting herself through the narrow opening. The pendulum jarred against her arm, of course, while she was yanking the latch free to open the glass panel of the clock.


The ticking stopped. The silence was enormous.


“Quick!” she hissed.


But we were not quick. We had to move the now-still pendulum aside, squeeze her out, squeeze the somewhat taller me out, and fumble with the pendulum to see if we could get it into motion again . . .


Tick tock. We could. The noise started up again. “Yeah!” cheered Vanity.


I closed the cabinet door. “Quiet! We’re trying to be quiet!”


“Well, you’re making all the noise saying ‘quiet’!”


We both heard Mr. Glum’s voice, in the distance, querulous.And footsteps.


There was a drapery that hung before the alcove of a window opposite, between the two mail-wearing mannequins. We scampered over to it, quick as mice. Inside, in the angle between three windows, was a little table holding one of Mrs.Wren’s potted plants. Vanity stood on the table. I put my heels on the window casement but the ledge was precarious, so I put my hands against the window opposite to support my weight.


This required Vanity to crouch into a ball so that I could lean across her.


There were actually two sets of men’s footsteps, and a clattering of dog’s nails on the floorboards.


“Who’s there?” growled Mr. Glum. His boots made little creaking noises on the carpet and the floor boards. We could hear the deep, slow breathing of his great mastiff dog, the rattle of its neck chain. We saw the splash of light from an electric torch pass back and forth. There was an inch or two of clearance beneath the drapes; the light shone clear.


The other set of footsteps was sharp and crisp. They clattered as if steel soles had been affixed to the bottom of the boots, click-clack, in time with the clockwork.


“Eyah, ’tis you, Doctor. You give a body a fright, walking along without no light, in the dark. What would you be doing astirring at this hour, sir?”


Dr. Fell’s precisely measured nasal tones answered him: “All things must be in order before the Visitors and Governors manifest tomorrow, Grendel. An Envoy from the Pretender will be in attendance, and no doubt the True Heir will force the Visitors to make a final disposition of our charges.”


“I want the redhead. She were capering and flaunting at me today at the breakfas’ hour, and giving me the eye. Ever since she were twelve year old, I’ve set my cap for her. She’s to be mine. I have the skull of a preacher I kill’t set on a post at the bottom of my well, and he can do the service. I kill’t him clean, so that makes him still a holy man, right?”


“The disposition of our charges is not a matter within our discretion, my dear Grendel. I, for one, can only operate within the latitude allowed by my maker’s instruction. Had I free will in the matter, certainly there are interesting experiments I would perform on all of them. It is a crime against science that such specimens will escape from the anatomy scalpel!”


“Nonetheless, sir, the redhead were promised me. I heard a voice in the wood.”


“Did you recognize this voice?”


“Naw, not at all, sir.”


“Then, on what grounds do you conclude that this person or persons had authority to treat with the matter, may I ask?”

"那么,在什么基础上你推测这个或这些人有权利处理这个问题, 我可以问吗?"

“A damn fine question, Doctor, and one where’s I got a set and goodly answer.”


“Please share it, my dear Grendel.”


“I figger that if’n it were someone trying to trick me, he would’f em-personated some voice what was known to me. As this were no voice known to me, then it were no one trying to trick me. Asides, I were dead drunk at the time, it being Sunday morning, when what’s I’m off duty.”


“That is, perhaps, not the most reliable and cogent test of authenticity. Have you approached the Headmaster? He has given us all strict orders to communicate with him immediately if any of our original principals attempt to contact us.”


“Brrr! I ain’t going no damn where near that one, if’n I can help it. You talk to the Headmaster. He respekt you, he does. You ain’t show no fear of his kind.”


“It is not an emotion I have been instructed to suffer.”


My arms were beginning to tell me I had not picked the most comfortable posture to support my weight. I am sure Vanity was having similar problems, folded in double above a leafy plant, which threatened to rattle at her least breath. We held our breaths and waited. It reminded me of those medieval tortures where witches were strapped into various positions and unable to move. And Vanity and I were in the role of the witches.


“Well, if’n that’s all, Doctor . . .”


“I do admit to a curiosity, Mr. Glum. I distinctly heard the clock operation suspend itself. If I may ask, were you the party who interrupted the movements of the clock, and, if so, for what purpose did you do this?”


“Eyah? I were thinkin’ you did it.”


“An unwarranted assumption. As your own finely honed senses no doubt imparted to you, I walked up from the Portrait Gallery while you were within view of the clock, and therefore could not have been at that spot at the time when it was meddled with, absent a certain amount of brisk jogging, which, I hope you will agree, is not in keeping with the dignity of my profession.”


“Hoy. Hum. We should look around. Of course, we sat here jawing for minute atop minute, so the scamps may be well away by now.”


“You have your suspicions, then?”


“Doctor, you is a bright fellow, I know. Here on the grounds there are five of us, our servants and our creatures, and some human beings what teach some of the classes. Who do you s’pose would be sneaking and spying around in the wee hours?It’s Colin, I’ll warrant, maybe the priggish Victor, or the sly one what don’t talk much.”


“May I suggest, then, my dear Grendel, that we have Lelaps scent around the base of the clock? He can tell us who passed by here. Meanwhile, I will check the reading of the hand against my pocket watch, which will enable us to deduce—if both timepieces had been in perfect synchronicity to begin with—how long the grandfather clock was interrupted in operation. The difference between the two times, you see . . .”


“Your pardon, sir, but old Lelaps can’t talk no more. All these years in the sunlight have robbed the voice clean out of him. He misses the shadows of the Darker World. The trees there are a proper size, and blot up the sun; and he’s a bit bigger himself, deep in the wood. I don’t think he’s going to talk.”


But there was a cough, and the breathing of the huge hound stopped, and then a breathy whisper came, hoarse, and sounding just as a dog would sound if dogs could talk.


“Two walked here, light of foot, slim and fair. One has hair of sunlight-hue, one as red as flame. The first is a Prelapsarian, from time before the Fall of Man; the second is the Daughter of a King, Alcinuous his name. Neither bears scent of any crime to merit the fate Fates have assigned. Perhaps they are near; or yet perhaps far. Perhaps they will recall what Lelaps did, or did not do, when they have the ascending star.”


“Up now, me bully!” said Mr. Glum. “If you have the scent, go find them! Go!”


We heard the noise of the chain rattling, and a scuffling sound. Mr. Glum was no doubt booting the dog in the rear. The dog growled a bit, but nothing further happened.


Dr. Fell said in a polite and distant voice: “I have a chemical in my office which may render the beast more pliant.”


“Garn! (He just want the redhead for himself, don’t he?) Well, she’s not for you!”


“I suppose the matter is moot, my dear Grendel. All we need do is inform Mrs. Wren that her charges are absent from their beds. This permits us to levy a punishment. Although, I must admit that antics of this type are the very things which, should they be discovered by the Board of Visitors and Governors,might lead to decapitation, defenestration, or crucifixion for all of us. This whole matter would have been more easily arranged if, from the first, we had pretended to be a hospital for the criminally insane, or a penitentiary, rather than an orphanage.”


“Oh, to be sure, Doctor. To be sure. No one would cock an eye at a jailhouse full of babies and toddlers, no one at all. Har har. We should’ve just kept them in the pantry in my mother’s house far beneath the lake water, like what my folk wanted.”


“Originally, we thought the imposture would be needed for a few months, perhaps a year at most. No one foresaw these unfortunate events. It is a shame we were not allowed to kill them once they reached puberty. We certainly do not have the facilities for dealing with fully matured Uranians.”


“Aye, well, there’s no help for it. Even Lelaps is turning against us. Let’s go wake Mrs. Wren.”


And they moved off down the corridor, loud footstomps and sharp staccato footfalls. We continued to hold our breath and hold our positions till the silence was complete.


Then we both collapsed on top of the potted plant, and knocked over the little table. The drape was flung wide by the fall, and dirt from the pot was scattered in a fan across the carpet. Vanity was laying atop me, her face slack with fear at the huge echoes we had raised, and she said, “We must agree never to tell Victor about this.”


The clatter and noise we had made was so loud, that we ran pell-mell to the front doors, yanked them open, closed them behind us, and threw ourselves headlong over the railing into the bushes to one side of the Main Hall’s stairs.


We held silence for an endless time, while Mr. Glum’s electric torch came back, playing across windows of the Main Hall.


He opened the door and peered out into the cold moonlight.


His giant mastiff came bounding out, looked between the marble pilings of the rail, and cocked his head to one side. He seemed to grin. He was looking right at us.


Vanity and I just stared back at him.


The dog threw back his head, and gave tongue.


Mr. Glum, stumping up from behind, said, “You scent ’em boy? You got ’em?”


Howling, the dog now raced away across the lawn, going South, toward the blacksmith sheds.


We crawled on all fours in the other direction, our hands slowly getting numb with the frost. Eventually we got to our feet and ran across the North Lawn to the nearest copse of trees.



I turned to Vanity. My breath came in cold plumes. “Not tell Victor about what? About the talking dog? We have to tell about that.”


“And I cannot believe his first name is Grendel. What kind of name is Grendel Glum?”


“What kind of name is Vanity Fair?”


“Better than Vanity Glum! I don’t want to have a severed head on a post do my wedding. No, we can certainly tell Victor all of that. We just can’t tell him how easily we were caught, knocking the plant over, stopping the clock, all that stuff. The official version is, we were cleverer than the Scarlet Pimpernel, agreed?”

"比瓦妮特.格罗姆要好!我可不想让一个放在柱子上的头来主持我的婚礼.不,我们得告诉维克托所有那些.我们只是不能告诉他我们几乎被抓到,打翻了花盆,弄停了钟,所有这类的事.官方的版本是,要比Scarlet Pimpernel聪明,同意吗?"

“We should go back. If we are found in bed when Mrs. Wren comes, then we might not be punished.”


“It’s probably too late already, Amelia! Dr. Fell went to go get Mrs. Wren minutes and minutes ago!”


“You know how long it takes to get her awake when she’s been drinking. Come on. We can make it. What other evidence do they have that it was us? I mean, it sounds like they’re pretty skeptical. They’ll think the talking dog was lying.”


“Say that again.”


“Say what again?”


“They’re skeptical. They’ll think the talking dog was lying.”


Vanity and I put all our faith in speed, and did not even try to be quiet. We ran back to the Main Hall. I arrived long before she did. As we agreed, I did not wait for her, but pushed aside the pendulum and stepped into the clock. The panel had not been slid shut (how had Glum missed seeing that?) so I was able to slide through without stopping the clock.



I heard the noises of something crawling after me in the tunnels. I dared not call out to discover if it was Vanity, in case it was not. In the fear and stale air and utter darkness of the blind labyrinth, however, I said my prayers to the Archangel Gabriel, and told him that I wanted to meet him some day, but not yet.


I could see, in the distance, the square of moonlight indicating that the little secret panel was open. I could see a bit of the girls’ dorm, and could hear someone at the door. The key was scraping in the lock.


I won the world’s women’s championship for the hundredmeter crawl in the next two seconds, as well as the women’s across-the-bedroom broad jump. I yanked off my cap and pulled the covers up to my nose just as the door swung open, and an angle of lamplight fell across my bed.


Here was Mrs. Wren, blinking and looking as irritable as her kindly face was capable of looking. I could see the thin, tall silhouette of Dr. Fell behind her. The lamplight caught his round,rimless spectacles, turning them opaque, and gleamed against the short brush of his white hair, against his pallid skin, so as to make him look like a thing made of metal, with lenses instead of eyes.


I tried to impersonate a yawn, but it came out so fake and forced, that I was sure Mrs. Wren was going to break out laughing on the spot. I was sure that Dr. Fell was going to smile at how foolish my attempts to trick them were, and he would no doubt make a small gesture with his hand; then Mr. Glum would come in, and stave in my skull with a shovel, and have my bloody corpse stuffed in a bag and taken out with the morning rubbish.


None of that happened. Instead, Mrs. Wren said, “Sorry to wake you, my ducklings.”


I tried to impersonate a sleepy voice, and, again, failed miserably.


“Wha—” (fake yawn) “—wha’sa’matter Mrrs. Wen?”


Dr. Fell, whose night vision was apparently better than most, said, “I do not detect that Miss Fair is in her bed.”


I said, “She’s curled up with me, on account of it is so cold.Her head is just under the cover. Should I wake her? It is so hard for us to fall asleep in this terrible cold. Can’t we have a fire in our room?”


Mrs. Wren said in her bleary, unsteady voice, “Now, now. You just quiet down, my gosling. Dr. Fell just has a bit of constipation or something, and maybe is imagining too much.Come away, Doctor, we’ll wake up Cook and get something for your bowels, there’s a nice whippet!”


Dr. Fell stepped forward with a stiff-legged stride. “I sense a magnetic anomaly in the chamber. If you will permit me to enter for an inspection . . . ?”


He was at the doorway when Mrs. Wren said, “Halt! You may not pass my wards without permission!”


I heard, very dimly, the notes of a violin in the distance. It was Miss Daw, the music teacher, in the conservatory. But why would she be playing now, at this hour of the night? The music was haunting and dim, as if it had come from very far away, and I could not shake the feeling that Mrs. Wren had summoned it.


Dr. Fell now stood in the door, his face blank (well, blanker than usual, anyway), making tiny motions with his shoulders and knees. It was very odd, as if he were pinned in place against a glass wall across the door frame.


Mrs. Wren said, “The care of the young girls was given to poor Mrs. Wren, long after my darling Robin never came for me again. Year by year, the Headmaster has taken my prerogatives from me, till little enough remains this day. Yet I still have this privilege; no man may step into the girls’ dormitory, not without my say.”


“There is something odd in the room, my dear Jenny. Further investigation is warranted.”


“My head is a whirl of aches, Doctor. Surely it will wait till morning.”


“But if there is something amiss, it is our duty to examine . . .”


“Those who set those duties on us are long gone, as you well know. Life is hard, and there is little enough joy in it for anyone, Dr. Fell. Let us let the wee children sleep and dream of fine things, true loves, handsome princes. It is a joy I no longer have, since I lost the key to my dreaming. Come away, come away.”


And the door closed, and the lock turned.


Vanity came out of the secret door a moment later and closed it silently behind her.


We climbed back into bed together, and lay there discussing the night’s events.


I said to her, “That secret passage made two left turns and dropped about six feet. It came out, however, at the Main Hall, in the West Wing, about three stories below us. How was that possible?”


Vanity said, “The turns may not have been right angles; the floor may not be level. What if it sloped slightly all the way to the West?”


“That wall is not thick enough to have that crawl space inside it. Look. There are windows above the gargoyle heads. Those casements are not six feet thick.”


Vanity yawned; a real, sincere-sounding yawn, and said, “I think things like feet and measurement and all right angles being equal are not real unless you pay attention to them. If you don’t know for sure what shape the walls are, they could be any shape, couldn’t they?”


“You are saying this mansion is multidimensional?”


“I don’t even know what that word means,” she said.


I lay in bed trying to calculate what degree of curvature in the fourth dimension a plane figure with two right angles would need to have in order to have lines built on those angles also be at right angles with each other. It occurred to me that two lines could be drawn on the surface of a sphere, intersecting at right angles at the North and South poles, and still be parallel at the equator. A third line following the equator also would intersect at right angles. If the mansion stood on a hypersphere slightly greater in diameter than the mansion grounds, a person could move from any point to any other with what, in three-space, would seem to be right angles.


How many equal three-dimensional spaces would a hypersphere be cut into by hyperplanes at right angles to each other?


A circle can be cut into four pie quadrants; a globe into eight round-bottomed pyramids . . . Was it sixteen . . . ?


I was trying to visualize how to construct a tesseract around a four-dimensional sphere when I drifted away to sleep.



TAG: 小说翻译





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